European Rail Update: Summer 2011
The June issue of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable is something of a publishing milestone, being the 1,500th edition since the book was first published in 1873. Ideal reading, we would say, for canny Cheapos looking to plan complex itineraries around Europe by train this summer.
The book lists train, bus and ferry schedules for over 5,000 locations across Europe, and includes timings for more than 50,000 trains. Full marks to editor Brendan Fox and his team for their attention to detail and for packing so much into so compressed a space.
So what’s new on Europe’s rails this month? As we reported last week, frequency on the successful Allegro service, linking Helsinki with St. Petersburg, doubled from last Sunday. And this week has also seen the 2011 start of the seasonal direct train from Berlin to Kaliningrad in Russia.
A completely new European rail link opens today, with a new service from Riga (Latvia) to Minsk (Belarus). Trains will make the 400-mile hop once daily in June, July and August, but expect the service to be scaled back after the peak summer season.
Changes in the UK
May 22 saw the launch of new timetables on the busy East Coast route from London Kings Cross to Yorkshire, north-east England and Scotland. The rail operator claims that the new schedules, dubbed Eureka, represent the biggest improvement on the route in two decades.
Certainly, there are some high points – more and faster trains from Edinburgh and Leeds to London, and new daily direct services from Harrogate and Lincoln to Kings Cross.
But there is a downside. Passengers from Glasgow bound for York and other East Coast destinations have lost most of their through trains and many more travelers from Glasgow will now need to change trains in Edinburgh. And we are sorry to see the traditional restaurant cars – for so long a happy feature of the East Coast route – have been scrapped.
Track maintenance in Germany
Some European railways use the summer period for a festival of track maintenance on business routes when premium-fare time-sensitive business traffic is lighter.
The principal hit this year is on the main east-west axis across northern Germany. From June 12 to August 27, 2011, services from Amsterdam, Cologne and the Ruhr cities to Berlin will all be affected by track work. Expect extended journey times east of Hanover, typically of about an hour.
Oslo bound (Norway)
Oslo is also the focus for major rebuilding work for six weeks from June 26. This will reduce Oslo Central station to a quiet shadow of its normal self as engineers remodel tracks and signaling around the Norwegian capital. For example trains from Bergen and western Norway will run to Drammen, from where passengers will be bussed into the middle of Oslo.
Similarly, the airport express train from Gardermoen will run only to Lillestrøm, where travelers must change onto buses. So if Oslo features on your summer 2011 itinerary, it pays to check schedules in advance and allow extra time for your journey.